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A woman so desperate to gain a foothold in Silicon Valley managed to fool her way into the tech elite by doctoring photos of her posing with celebrities and making up job titles she never had.
Shirley Hornstein’s methods of deception were so good, she even managed to nab a spot on the list of the top 40 most influential women investors in the tech sector – despite the fact she has allegedly never invested.
Hornstein also led people to believe she was friends with celebrities to help her cause, by skilfully Photoshopping herself into photos with Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg and posting them online.
However, her charade was over when Napster founder Sean Parker filed legal action against her, after she claimed multiple times to have worked for his company, Founders Fund, Gawker.com reported.
“Beginning no later than July of 2011, Ms. Hornstein engaged in a pattern of conduct, which includes making false and misleading written and oral representations, designed to deceive potential business partners and employers into believing that she had prior and/or ongoing business and employment connections to Founders Fund and its partners,” court documents read.
“In fact, Ms. Hornstein is not now, nor has she ever been, an employee or business partner of Founders Fund or any Founders Fund Partner or executive.”
Hornstein had also posted up a blog post where she claimed to have worked at influential tech companies including iMeem, Nitro PDF, and Dropbox.
TechCrunch claimed while Hornstein’s name dropping led to being introduced to those in senior positions in the tech industry, not everyone was easily convinced.
Anthony Ha, author of the TechCrunch article, said he met Hornstein a number of times.
“When I first met her more than a year ago, she kept talking about her connections to Sean Parker and Founders Fund – though I don’t think I ever pinned her down on her exact role at the firm,” he wrote.
Hornstein has since apologised on the blogging site, Women 2.0, and said she has been “subjected to the humiliation and judgement from people I have never met and probably never will”.
“Deep down I knew this would happen eventually because you can’t build your life based on lies, but what did I do to stop it? I told more lies, created more elaborate stories, abused trust that been given to me and pretended that everything was going to be okay,” she said.
“Fake it ‘til you make it, right?”